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Briefing Schedule Set for Challenge to Alabama Legislative District Boundaries (May 22, 2015, 11:16 AM)

A three-judge U.S. District Court in Alabama has set a deadline for briefs in the lawsuit challenging the boundaries of 28 State House districts and 8 State Senate districts. All the briefs are to be in by August 7, 2015. Then, the judges will decide whether further oral argument is needed. This is the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided earlier this year that Alabama’s legislative redistricting plan may violate the 14th amendment. The Supreme Court had sent the case back to the U.S. District Court. The plaintiffs, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference, argue that the redistricting plan diminishes African-American voting strength by packing too many African-American voters into a minority of districts, so that the number of districts influenced by such voters is too limited.

If the 3-judge district court strikes down the plan, there would likely be special legislative elections in 2016. Normally Alabama wouldn’t have any legislative elections in a presidential election year, because all seats have 4-year terms and are up in mid-term years.

U.S. District Court Upholds Tucson?s Hybrid Partisan System for City Council Elections (May 22, 2015, 11:03 AM)

On May 20, U.S. District Court Judge Cindy Jorgenson upheld Tucson’s hybrid system of elections for city council. Members of each qualified party nominate a candidate for city council, in primaries conducted separately in each of the six wards. Then, in the general election, all the nominees from a particular ward run against each other citywide. The decision is 13 pages and says that the system does not discriminate for or against any voter. Public Integrity Alliance v City of Tucson, 4:15cv-138.

Major California Newspapers Provide Misinformation About May 19 Special Legislative Election (May 21, 2015, 10:36 PM)

On May 19, California held a special election to fill the vacant State Senate seat, 7th district, in Contra Costa County. Steve Glazer, an anti-union Democrat, was elected. Stories about his election victory in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury News, all said that the top-two system was responsible for Glazer’s win.

In reality, all California special elections 1967-2010 used a blanket primary. All candidates ran on a single primary ballot and all voters used that ballot. If someone got 50% that person was elected. Otherwise there was a runoff, with the top vote-getter from each party, plus any independent candidates. In the first round in this 7th district race, Glazer received 38,411 votes. The 2nd highest Democrat only received 28,389 votes. No one got 50% and there was one Republican on the ballot.

Under the old system, Glazer would have been in a runoff with the only Republican. He would have been the Democratic nominee because he got more votes than any other Democrat. He would easily have defeated the only Republican in the runoff, since she had no campaign, and even endorsed Glazer.

Nothwithstanding these facts, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Had Glazer been playing under the old rules – in which each party selects its nominees for the general election – he wouldn’t have been in the runoff at all.” The election returns from the March first round disprove that. The reporter who wrote the story e-mailed me to say that the paper would not run a correction, because if a strong Republican had entered the election, then Glazer might not have done so well in the first round. However, the fact that a strong Republican didn’t enter the race has nothing to do with the new election system. No strong Republican entered the race because Republican Party officials discouraged them and supported Glazer. They would have acted the same way under the old system.

British Columbia Newspaper Carries Op-Ed in Favor of Proportional Representation (May 21, 2015, 09:21 PM)

The Nelson Star, a daily newspaper in British Columbia, has this op-ed advocating proportional representation for Canada. The author is Danette Moule of Fairvote Canada.

Alabama Legislature Passes Bill Moving Primary to an Earlier Date in March (May 21, 2015, 07:59 PM)

On May 21, the Alabama House passed SB 240, which moves the primary for president and all other office to the first Tuesday in March. Existing law is the second Tuesday in March. Assuming the bill is signed, the 2016 primary will be March 1. The bill has the effect of making the petition deadline for newly-qualifying parties and non-presidential independent candidates also due on March 1, instead of March 8 as under the old law.

Ohio Libertarian Party Notifies U.S. District Court of New Revelation about Ohio Republican Party Involvement (May 21, 2015, 12:05 PM)

On May 18, the Ohio Libertarian Party filed this supplemental brief in Libertarian Party of Ohio v Husted, the party’s ballot access case that is pending in U.S. District Court. The case involves the constitutionality of the 2013 Ohio ballot access laws for new and minor parties, and it also involves the constitutionality of the 2014 administrative ruling that kept the party’s gubernatorial nominee off the party’s primary ballot. The new brief brings up recent revelations that the Ohio Republican Party paid the legal costs of the individual who challenged the party’s primary petition.

Sixth Circuit Upholds Discriminatory Michigan Ballot Access Law (May 21, 2015, 11:34 AM)

On May 20, the Sixth Circuit upheld the aspect of Michigan ballot access laws for new parties that requires newly-qualifying parties to submit approximately twice as many signatures as the number of votes needed for an established party to remain on the ballot. Erard v Michigan Secretary of State, 14-1873.

The decision is only eight pages and does not even mention the two precedents that say states cannot require more signatures for a new party than it requires votes for an old party. Those precedents are the U.S. Supreme Court decision Williams v Rhodes, and a 3-judge U.S. District Court decision from Massachusetts in 1972 called Baird v Davorem.

In Williams v Rhodes, the U.S. Supreme Court said that Ohio was violating the constitution by requiring a 15% (of the last gubernatorial vote) for new parties, but only a 10% vote for an old party to stay on the ballot In Baird v Davorem, the federal court in Massachusetts struck down Massachusetts law that required a 3% petition (of the last gubernatorial vote) for a new party’s nominees, but kept old parties on the ballot if they continued to receive one-tenth of 1% of the vote for Governor.

The Sixth Circuit wouldn’t even grant an oral argument in this case. The decision is per curiam and is signed by Judges R. Guy Cole and Ronald Gilman (Clinton appointees) and Jeffrey Sutton (a Bush Jr. appointee). The case had been filed by a pro se activist from the Socialist Party. Michigan and Kansas are the only two states in which the number of signatures for a new party to get on is greater than the number of votes for an old party to stay on. The Plaintiff, Matt Erard, will ask for reconsideration.

Indonesian Newspaper Carries Interesting Analysis of Advantages and Disadvantages of Proportional Representation (May 20, 2015, 11:00 PM)

The Jakarta Post has this analysis of Britain’s electoral system, compared with Indonesia’s system. Indonesia uses proportional representation. The author is an Indonesian political scientist who works in Great Britain.

Fox News and CNN Announce Debate Criteria for First Two Republican Presidential Primary Debates (May 20, 2015, 10:27 PM)

On May 20, Fox News announced the rules on who will be invited into the August 6, 2015 Republican presidential debate. Also on May 20, CNN announced the rules for the September 16 debate. The Republican National Committee had earlier decided not to set any rules, and to let the networks sponsoring the debates make the rules.

The August 6 Fox debate will invite the top ten candidates, as measured by polls. The CNN September 16 debates will be in two parts. One will be for the top ten candidates, as shown by polls. The other debate will be for those who weren’t included in the first debate but who are at least 1% in polls. See this story.

Kentucky Republican Gubernatorial Primary Virtual Tie (May 20, 2015, 11:33 AM)

On May 19, Kentucky held Democratic and Republican primaries for the statewide executive posts. In the Republican gubernatorial primary, the two leading candidates are only 83 votes apart. Matt Bevin is in the lead over James Comer. This article describes Kentucky procedures for recounts. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

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